TRAILBLAZER

“An important document of the struggles (and triumphs) faced by African-American journalists from the 1960s until today.​”

Kirkus Review

Gloria Steinem, feminist activist, writer, editor, lecturer who also helped create New York and Ms. Magazine

“Dorothy Gilliam is that most rare of revolutionaries, one who not only climbs the barricades, but lets down a ladder to help others up, too. In her more than six decades at the centers of journalism in New York and Washington, she has often been the first African American woman and the best of everything. Her memoir shows us that a few can be both, but no one should have to. We will have no democracy until each of us can be our unique individual selves.”

 

TRAILBLAZER is a riveting memoir by the first Black woman reporter at The Washington Post and her fight for media diversity and social justice. Dorothy Butler Gilliam recounts her full, fascinating life—spanning from the 1930s to the present

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With a newspaper writer’s resourcefulness, wit, and skill, this high-octane octogenarian weaves her personal and professional experiences together with six decades of media history witnessed firsthand. She recounts seizing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities never before possible for a “dark-skinned woman.” Having grown up in the segregated South, she fondly describes the black church community that nurtured her self-image, stealing her against childhood and adolescent hardships and preparing her for unimagined ones to come.

 

As we follow Gilliam’s distinguished sixty-year career, we glimpse how the media has changed. During her coverage of the Civil Rights Movement, even The Washington Post expense account could not get her a hotel room while she was on assignment in Mississippi. Excerpts of her poignant columns chronicle the times when mainstream media first began to cover black culture. We are confidantes to the struggles of a black journalist breaking ground in a white world, while juggling her role as a wife and working mother, coming into her own during the Black Power and Women’s Movements.

 

Gilliam’s life offers piercing insights into the role of the media in these movements. Having worked for diversity in the media, witnessed immense progress, and also overcome heart-wrenching setbacks, Gilliam gives voice to the change still needed to make the media more inclusive of all Americans.

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"Dorothy Butler Gilliam writes with an acute sense of the historical significance of her career and the changes she witnessed, and she forcefully demonstrates the continuing crisis regarding people of color in mainstream journalism. An important document of the struggles (and triumphs) faced by African-American journalists from the 1960s until today."